As people get older they supposedly get wiser, yet on many tests of intellectual ability, people seem to do worse with age. Are the common-sense notions wrong, or are the tests missing some important assets of older minds?
Conventional tests shortchange older people's abilities, according to psychologists Stephen W. Cornelius and Avshalom Caspi, who came up with a new way to test various aspects of intelligence.
Cornelius and Caspi developed the Everyday Problem-Solving Inventory (EPSI), an intelligence test that explores abilities that people often associate with being smart. These include practical intelligence (such as sizing up situations well, determining how to achieve goals and being interested in the world at large) and social competence (accepting others for what they are, admitting mistakes, showing up on time for appointments).
(Cornelius, a Ph.D., is at Cornell University. Caspi, also a Ph.D., is at Harvard University. Their study appeared in the Psychology and Aging journal, for which the writer of this article works.)